As summer comes to an end, and a new year of teaching and performing begins, I wanted to let you know that I've begun a new venture, Praying with Bach. It's a series of performances, and writings hosted on Substack. If you're at all interested in the music of Bach and the intersection of Christian faith, theology, and classical music, please check it out. Make sure to subscribe over there as I won't cross-share much after this.
Otherwise- I'm preparing a solo recital on my University's campus in a couple weeks and plan to perform the repertoire online for you! More details coming soon.
July 25th, 2022
The year that was, part 3
I had big plans for 2022 but that was upended (in the best way possible) when the band director at Heidelberg University stopped me outside my office in early January and asked if I’d like perform a solo with the Symphonic Band, specifically, the concerto solo part in George Gershwin’s iconic Rhapsody in Blue.
I’d never played it, not even reading it through for fun, in fact I didn’t even know the piece well. But I knew there was an arrangement of it for piano and symphonic band (people usually hear it in the version with piano and orchestra) and I thought I’d ask in a year or two if they might be interested in doing it.
It was a short timeline before rehearsals and the the first performance but I couldn’t say no. My undergraduate teacher recommended learning a piece fully 6 months before a performance; I learned this piece, memorized and all, in 6 weeks. It’s always thrilling, and a rare opportunity, to play a concerto with a large ensemble. Collaborating with my students and our band director (unfortunately now, former director as he took an exciting new position at my alma mater, BGSU, for the fall), this semester was jazzier, and a little more stressful than expected, but full of some exciting performances.
We got to do 3 performances of Rhapsody in Blue in different places, in February, March, and May. Living with a piece like that and growing as a group gives you plenty of perspective as a performer. I debated which performance to share–there are medium-quality livestreams available of each, and each varied in terms of quality of venue, piano, and soloist errors. Ultimately, I decided I’d share the first one up; it had the best piano and venue, and though we gave more polished performances, I think this one has a primal excitement that’s hard to recreate.
Another big summer project that carried into the fall was learning, rehearsing, recording, and performing songs by my now-emeritus colleague at Heidelberg University, Douglas McConell. My colleague and department chair, soprano Carol Dusdieker, had commissioned Doug to write a series of songs on the poetry of Sara Teasdale and I was honored to join them.
It’s rare to work with a composer who I both enjoy and respect as a friend, person, musician, and educator, and whose musical voice fits my so naturally. I always found Doug’s music stimulating and naturally expressive, and he writes idiomatic and interesting parts for the piano. Likewise, it’s rare to collaborate with another performer with whom few words need to be said in rehearsal. Carol not only makes our department a joy to work in every day, but I’ve found we intuit each other’s musical intentions so well.
We prepared the first 11 songs and recorded them at a studio in Maumee, Ohio in August and September. We then performed 6 of them at Doug’s retirement concert in October. Here’s hoping we get a commercial recording out of the whole set, but for now, you can watch the live performance of six songs on Facebook here, starting at 1:22:00.
July 10th, 2022
The year that was, part 1.
Why Mozart Matters finished its first series in April of 2021, and I took a break from performing last summer to focus on practicing whatever my heart desired. That culminated in a faculty recital on September 12th at Heidelberg University, my first solo recital for a live audience since my last Choosing Joy in May of 2019.
I wanted to make a splash for my first recital in my tenure at Heidelberg, so I programmed two of my favorite works: Schubert's FourImpromptus, Op. 90, and Frederic Rzewski's De Profundis.
The Schubert I've longed to play as a set since I was a teenager. I can still reminder a studio-mate of mine in high school playing the fourth. I remember struggling through the second a year later. I remember preparing the first for jury, a breakthrough performance, in my early 20s. My growth as a pianist can be traced through these pieces.
The Rzewski is literally a genre of its own. It's a 'melodramatic oratorio for speaking pianist'. I'm playing piano, but also acting, singing, making animal sounds and...some other surprises I like to make you wait for. This theatrical piece brings me out of my element, and it's always been both uncomfortable, and thrilling to perform.
I was really happy with this performance. I tried some improvising some interludes between the Schubert pieces. The Rzewski was really well received, and I was honored by the response my students gave me. If you're on Facebook, you can check out the performance here.
February 27th, 2021
The Why Mozart Matters recital series are ongoing! I have started performing the complete Mozart Piano Sonata cycle in short, interactive recitals livestreaming on my Facebook page. Though I will mostly be going in order, this coming Wednesday, I will be performing #12, K 332 in F Major, at 8 PM EST. If you missed any of the recitals so far, good news! You can access an archive of the livestreams. Just make sure you're a part of my e-mail list by entering your information below. You can also access the archive of Mozart stories that I've been sharing with my mailing list.
February 7, 2021
Happy new year! 2020 will go down as one of the strangest years. I am very blessed to have kept all my work, and been allowed to spend more time at home with my family. In an effort to give something back, I am working hard at reviving my online presence, in order to deliver hope, inspiration, and community through my music making.
In April, I performed my Choosing Joy recital on a Facebook live-stream. The story of love, victory, and hope seemed timely, early in the pandemic. It's hard to fathom that we aren't passed this yet, that all the things that seemed extraordinary and historic 8 months ago, are now common-place. So I think the story is relevant even now. Click the link above for a complete performance of this narrative recital.
On January 27th, I performed a 265th birthday celebration for Mozart, live on Facebook. I discussed some entry points to his music, and played his first Piano Sonata. Since it was so enjoyable, and since Mozart has played such an important role in my musical life recently, I decided to continue! On Wednesday, February 10th, I will perform Sonata #2, again, live on Facebook. The plan is that the cycle will continue every 2 weeks, discussing and performing one Sonata at a time. Come join us!
In the meantime, make sure you are on my mailing list, and get my free guide "Listening to the Mozart Sonatas" to get prepared for the virtual cycle I'll be performing throughout the year.
September 2, 2019
A lot can get in the way of updating a website! I've always been the kind of person who can feel too distracted by one project or event or another to do much else. This last winter, spring and summer, it was more a life change which kept me from posting much here or across my social media platforms: My wife and I welcomed our first child into the world in June! My existing concerts, teaching while waiting on our little girl to arrive proved enough to distract me from working on much else publicly till now. We've had a wonderful summer learning how to be parents and look forward to balancing that with a little more normal work as the fall begins.
I decided against recording the first 6 Mozart in a Month Sonatas earlier in the year. I've worked plenty on them, and revamping my approach to Mozart. I'm really happy with how my playing has changed, and I felt I just wasn't ready to spend the money on recording these precious works which I was still developing my style in. When the time is right, probably once I've learned all 18, I will do studio recordings of the Mozart Sonatas, but the right time is not now.
In the meantime, I did work on the Liszt Sonata! This has been a dream piece for years. Are you really a pianist if you don't dream of learning this piece? I decided that I ought to dig into it before the baby came, partly while I had the time, but partly as a spiritual exercise in maturity. I got all of the notes down before she arrived, many sections in very rough form. Over several months, I recorded run-throughs of what I'd achieved, and I will post about those soon. One must be humble to work on this piece, and I thought I needed to expose all of my vulnerabilities as I worked through this epic opus.
Mozart in a Month was to continue for year 2 August 1st, 2019, and indeed it did! I learned his Sonata in D, K. 311, while changing diapers, playing with and feeding our little girl, and while the result wasn't a perfect performance, I'm really happy with where my Mozart playing is headed. I'll have that on YouTube very soon and linked here.
Finally, I have no solo recitals planned for the year which is helpful as we adjust to being a family of 3. I do expect to do 1, maybe 2 recitals in Northwest Ohio. I'm also doing several duo concerts in the area with my friend and collabroator, Esther Darmahkasih, playing a program crafted for retirement communities, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities.
January 24, 2019
Happy new year everybody! This past weekend I had the joy of performing my 5th iterance of the Choosing Joy recital in Fort Wayne Indiana. Though the whole area faced a massive snow storm the weekend before, there was plenty of joy and celebration with the audience that was still able to make it out. I'm excited to still have 3 more performances of the recital this year in Ypsilanti, MI, as well as Marietta and Lorain, OH.
I have reformatted the Mozart in a Month project slightly. Instead of going straight for two years, I'm going to batch the recitals into 3 groups of 6, and take a longer break in between. Mozart's music is great, but a break is in order, and I needed to find room to pursue a few other opportunities in the upcoming months (not least of which, becoming a father in June!).
I will be stepping into the studio to record the first 6 Mozart Sonatas in this project, so I will look forward to sharing peaks into that process soon. Meanwhile, my teaching at the Toledo Symphony School of Music is as enjoyable as ever with my 30 piano students. A few other projects are formulating in my mind, and hopefully I'll have some new things over the next few months to share.
October 15, 2018
I'm now on my 3rd Sonata of Mozart in a Month, and completed 2 performances of Choosing Joy. It's been a busy couple months of practicing and teaching, but I'm thrilled that I get to spend my days at the piano.
I'm pleased that my goal of learning one Mozart Piano Sonata per month has not been unrealistic. Though my month end performances are not perfect, they are performances I'm quite happy with. Come January, I'll revisit all of the first 5 Sonatas and record them in studio, which gives me a second chance to get them much more perfect. And I'm not yet tired of Mozart either!
The performances of Choosing Joy have been inspiring to say the least. I've heard some incredible stories of people's own journeys with cancer and other hardships, and they have been very encouraging about the impact this recital program can have. I'm lucky to announce two more performances of this recital, coming up in 2019 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and Marietta, Ohio.
Mozart, Choosing Joy and teaching is where I spend all of my professional life these days, so feel free to check out those pages, especially to catch up on my Mozart performances and studies.
July 28, 2018
I've had a wonderful and productive summer! Trips across the U.S.A. and Canada, and spending time with friends and family. I've been writing plenty on my blog, and took Book 3 Suzuki Piano training to bring new ideas to my teaching. I've been reading a lot, and practicing and preparing for the coming year of performing.
Most of all, I am excited to announce a two-year project: Mozart in a Month. Starting August 1, I will be learning a new Mozart Piano Sonata, collecting each into a series of recitals, and releasing performances, progress reports, and plenty of other Mozart observations, on my blog and my Facebook page. Check out the page on this site, which serves as the hub, for the complete description and schedule.
I'm also looking forward to several live performances this year.
First up, on August 11, I'll be performing as part of the Fanny & Felix Festival, an all-day marathon celebrating the famous Mendelssohn sister and brother, hosted by the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and Toledo Museum of Art. I'll be performing the spring months from Fanny Mendelssohn's Das Jahr. I studied this music some to lecture on in my piano repertoire class last year, and was thrilled with the possibility of adding some of this music to my repertoire.
Just a few more weeks before teaching ramps up. I hope you continue to enjoy your summer!
May 27, 2018
As teaching winds down for the year, so too does the public side of my work! I have no performances on the schedule for the next several months and am very excited to have an enriching summer holiday full of fun, family but also practicing and reading.
I do have a new, massive performing project in the works which will begin in a few months, and I'm very excited to announce what that will be. Keep watching this page, as well as my Facebook page and my newsletter to get that information!
On a personal note, my wife and I are getting set for a big road trip in June to see the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Arches, as well as other National Parks and beautiful scenes. I've not explored any of that area and am so excited to take in all of the inspiring geography.
In July I'm excited to take on my Suzuki Book 3 training. These courses always impress me as each teacher-trainer that I've worked with has tremendous insight into the repertoire, and learning difficulties therein. I always feel like my own pedagogy gets overhauled as I process these new insights.
April 10, 2018
In just a few days, I'll be joining Garrett Krohn on his DMA horn recital at BGSU (April 21, 8 PM in the Choral Hall). We've got a great program: a Sonata by Violet Archer, 3 pieces by Volker David Kirchner, and massive (-ly fun and difficult to play) Music for Horn and Piano by Thea Musgrave. This is the 3rd recital I've collaborated with Garrett on and I love working with him.
On April 13th, at 7 PM, we'll be playing the Musgrave, and I'll also be playing Feldman's Piano Piece (to Philip Guston) on the EAR/EYE concert at the Toledo Museum of Art.
I'm slowing digging into my blog again as the academic year finishes up. I'm anticipating some really fun things ahead personally and professionally. My wife and I are planning a National Parks vacation in the southwest USA in June, and I'm working on several more performances of the Choosing Joy recital through 2018 and 2019. I have many more ideas about writing and performing projects ahead, but will wait till they've developed a little more before committing to them!
January 11, 2018
This past fall I have been working on a whole lot of traditional solo repertoire. Eventually, that coalesced around a recital program which I am eager to perform and present throughout 2018 and 2019: "Choosing Joy". Through this recital, I will be telling the story of my wife's battle with breast cancer in 2016 and 2017, the very real and raw struggle we had together, and the life and artistic lessons I learned as a result of that time. The program features works by my friend, Garrett Hope, as well as Johannes Brahms, Samuel Barber, Amy Beach, and culminates in Beethoven's Eroica Variations, Op. 35.
I'm thrilled to perform this program at the Maumee First Presbyterian Church (200 E Broadway St) the evening of Saturday, February 3rd (follow the link for all the information on Facebook!). All proceeds from this recital will be shared between the church's great music programs, and The Victory Center, a support system in Toledo for cancer patients and their families. I look forward to sharing videos from this recital afterward, and hope to perform it often to the benefit of local cancer support organizations.
Besides this project, I of course continue to teach piano and piano repertoire at BGSU, Suzuki piano at the Toledo Symphony School of Music. I'm also teaching for one semester at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. As a sabbatical replacement, I'm thrilled to be teaching their piano majors and class piano programs. I'm slated to perform the "Choosing Joy" recital there on March 17th at 7 PM.
Finally, I'm excited to collaborate on a recital program with my friend Garrett Krohn, a horn DMA student at BGSU. In April, we'll be doing a recital which includes duo works by Violet Archer, and Thea Musgrave.